Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Fierce battle anticipated for top rider

Shed-row buzz is this season's crop of jockeys best in years

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2Still, after witnessing his ascent to the top of the mountain last year and taking a quick glance at his stats, some would be inclined to believe he ran away with the title.

With the incumbent Alan Cuthbertson going after his fourth-straight title, Delorme, a 25-year-old native American from Spirit Lake Reservation, just south of St. Michael's, N.D., quietly went about his business and amassed 86 wins in 408 starts and earnings of $703,955. In addition he finished second 84 times and third 64 times.

Jamaican Tyrone Nelson, 25, was the closest rider to him, with a record of 47-52-40 in 315 outings for earnings of $444,202, and was a runner-up for the Jockey Club of Canada's Sovereign Award as top apprentice rider.

Cuthbertson, who finished third, won't be back this year. He lost his conditional jockey's licence in October at Vancouver's Hastings Park after refusing a random drug test.

Still, the buzz around shed row is that this year's crop of jockeys is the best to ply their trade at the Downs in quite a few years.

Among those who are expected to take a run at the brass ring are Washington hall of famer Gary Baze, 54, and his wife Vicky, 46. Also back is Jeanine Stianson, the 2008 JCC Sovereign Award winner for best apprentice jockey. Throw into the pot: Rohan Singh, a three-time leading rider; Juan Crawford, who is back, and says he's ready to take a run at the crown; Chris Husbands, who apprenticed here in 2007; and veterans Mark Anderson and Rocco Bowen and you've got this year's top 10 riders.

Delorme's competition will enjoy a small edge in the first week as he'll have to sit out next Friday and Saturday. Last Sunday, he appealled a three-day suspension for bumping in the Buffalo Stakes on Sept. 19, 2009. It was reduced to two days and he'll be allowed to race Sunday.

"As of right now I'm taking it one day at a time, working hard and hopefully it will all pay off," said Delorme, who didn't do a whole lot of riding in the off-season. "Right now I am getting my Canadian residency, so I had to stay in the country, and I just kind of sat around and took it easy this winter.

"Obviously the more you ride, the better you get. But I always watch my replays and I see my mistakes and ups and downs. I know where my negatives are and hopefully they'll come out a little more positive this year."

Delorme is aware that Nelson will be coming after him, and without a doubt the return of Gary and Vicky Baze means he'll have to be on top of his game.

"It always helps to watch those older riders. They're experienced and they make the right decisions," says Delorme. "Since I've been here, everybody has been pretty competitive but in the last year or two there's a lot of better, more aggressive riders coming in and this year ain't going to be easy."

A three-time leading rider in Washington, Vicky Baze got her first trip at the Downs in early August last year, taking over for her husband when Gary withdrew after suffering a knee injury earlier in the season.

She isn't making any predictions.

"The only way that I personally anticipate the future in any situation, in both racing and otherwise, is I hope for the best, live for today and let tomorrow take care of itself," she says. "I have a great love for this wonderful game of horse racing. I hope to be doing it for many years to come and ride a few winners along the way."

On Aug. 26, 2009, she showed everyone her mettle, beginning with a trio of third-place finishes. She sat out the fourth race, and then lowered the boom by winning the last four races. She finished the season in sixth place with 39 wins in only 184 mounts.

Stianson burst onto the scene here in 2008 as an apprentice, winning the first four races of opening day, but admits that she was thoroughly shocked when the JCC awarded her the top apprentice award, especially since she had to leave Assiniboia Downs halfway through the season.

"Yeah (I was surprised), big time. I didn't even ride a full season at an A track. I did like it here, until the fines (a total of $1,200) were just getting too high," she said. "I believe they were calling it overuse of the whip."

Banned from the track in 2003 for punching fellow jockey Ken Hendricks, Crawford says he's glad to be back and he's ready for a run at the title.

"For me every rider is competition so I don't get to relax. I know my ability and what I can and am willing to do. But I still have to keep a sharp eye out for all the others," says Crawford.

allan.besson@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition May 7, 2010 C5

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